I grew up in Small Heath, Birmingham, known to most as Peaky Blinders territory. I was interested in football and history at school, and studied art and design at Aston University. Birmingham has 35 miles of canals, which intrigued me because my dad was born on a canal boat.
My claim to dull fame came in 2018, when I was named Anorak of the Year by the Dull Men’s Club. It’s an international collective of people – we welcome everyone, not just men – who find joy in the mundane. Our motto is “celebrating the ordinary”. Other members include a drain spotter and a guy who has collected 20,000 milk bottles. After that, newspapers began to dub me “Britain’s dullest man”.
I had other brushes with the media before then, too. I run a small print shop in Redditch, and in 2003 I wanted to create a calendar for our customers. Redditch had three prisons, no cinema, but copious roundabouts and so, for the laugh, my employees and I decided on Roundabouts of Redditch.
I was in a pub one Friday night when a friend called to say it was on the Graham Norton Show. Graham was flicking through a calendar of gorgeous Greek islands with his guest and brought Roundabouts of Redditch out as a comparison. I absolutely loved it.
It changed my life. Demand rocketed for the calendar. We had initially printed 100 copies – soon we were selling to people around the world. In 2004, I was approached by a publisher and wrote Roundabouts of Great Britain, which sold 20,000 copies on its first run, then Roundabouts from the Air ish in 2005, called that because I took the photos from bridges and the tops of trees. The AA asked me to do the same for car parks – we put out another book, Parking Mad: Car Parks from Heaven (or Hell), and a calendar, Car Parks of Britain.
The Redditch calendar spawned a series of Best of British Roundabouts. I traveled the country with my camera, following enthusiasts’ tipoffs. I photographed a Kent roundabout with a duck pond and a Yorkshire one with a working windmill. I’ve made calendars of benches, bus routes, telephone boxes and other seemingly unexciting features of British life. I’ve produced calendars of prisons and old asylums. I love grisly subjects, steeped in history, although I’m also thinking of doing one on recycling centres.
TV crews from China and the US visited. I was on daytime TV, including on Sharon Osbourne’s show. I downed a bottle of wine in the green room before my appearance to offset my nerves. It went swimmingly, though.
I also established myself as president of the UK Roundabout Appreciation Society (my unofficial title is The Lord of the Rings) and the founder – and only member – of the Car Park Appreciation Society. People say I’m obsessed, but that feels derogatory. I prefer “passionate”.
My four sons are fairly embarrassed by it, and my three ex-wives all found me dull; not in the bedroom, but in every other part of the house. But I think women like dull men; when their husbands say they’re going to the shed to make a matchstick model of Winchester Cathedral, they don’t have to wonder if they’re actually up to something else.
In truth, I don’t think I’m dull. It’s my hobbies that are dull. I’m actually full of surprises: I’m a fan of trance music and went clubbing last weekend. In February, I spent my 70th birthday in Malaga with two buddies.
I try to do 10 calendars a year. I get inspiration from everyday life. Martin Parr, the celebrated British photographer, sent me a text saying he admired my work. That felt wonderful.
My Benches of Redditch calendar became my second biggest seller last year, at 2,000 copies. The most popular calendar that year was The Wonderful World of Jack Grealish’s Calves 2022. As an Aston Villa fan, I made it as an act of revenge when he was sold to Manchester City, but a lot of people bought it for their girlfriends.
I’m semi-retired, and these hobbies have kept me alive. I consider myself a writer – I’m writing a novel about a Brummie abducted by aliens – and I enjoy the knowledge that my photography is on walls across Britain and beyond.
I meet up with the Dull Men’s Club once a year; it’s amazing how charismatic we are when we all get together. And I wear my Britain’s dullest man title as a badge of honour.